Former National Security Agency Director James Clapper declared he never lied in his congressional testimony about surveillance programs.
In fact, he told CNN’s John Berman on Tuesday, he just did not understand the question he was being asked in the 2013 hearing and “made a big mistake.”
Clapper, a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, was accused of perjury for telling a Senate committee in 2013 that the NSA didn’t collect “any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions of Americans” in mass domestic surveillance programs exposed by then-NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
On CNN Tuesday, Clapper reacted to a comment by The Intercept’s Glen Greenwald on a report in The New York Times that the system which analyzed logs of domestic calls and texts by Americans was being shut down, or allowed to expire.
The very first NSA program we revealed from Snowden documents – the mass domestic spying program of Americans’ phone records, which James Clapper lied about & Obama insisted was vital to national security – has been shut down https://t.co/H91zvOcVMk
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 5, 2019
“The very first NSA program we revealed from Snowden documents, the mass domestic spying program of Americans’ phone records which James Clapper lied about and Obama insisted was vital to national security has been shut down,” Greenwald tweeted along with a link to the report.
Berman asked Clapper, now a CNN commentator, for his reaction to the remark from his “nemesis.”
“Well, the original thought behind this, and this program was put in place as a direct result of 9/11, the point was to be able to track quickly a foreign communicant talking to somebody in this country who may have been plotting a terrorist plot, and was put in place during the Bush Administration for that reason,” Clapper replied.
“I always regarded it as kind of a safeguard or insurance policy so that if the need came up you would have this to refer to,” he said.
“As far as the comment, the allegation about my lying, I didn’t lie, I made a big mistake and I just simply didn’t understand what I was being asked about. I thought of another surveillance program, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act when I was being asked about Section 215 of the Patriot Act at the time, I just didn’t understand that” he contended.
Just to refresh your memory Mr. Clapper….you lied then and you’re lying now https://t.co/4dfg1d2pFM
— Terrence Maddoux (@Jrizzell) March 6, 2019
“One of the things that’s noted in The New York Times article which broke this story overnight was that it suggested no terrorist attacks have been stopped or terrorists caught as a result of this program. If that is the case, does that indicate that it might not be necessary?” Berman asked.
“Well, that’s true, and I think probably at the time contemporaneously back 2013 or so when all this broke that we may have oversold it a bit because, you know, we were hard-pressed to point out to a specific case in point,” Clapper admitted, adding that it proved there was a “need for the intelligence community to have been more transparent.”
“I’m convinced had this been explained contemporaneously at the time it was introduced that it would have been accepted by the public and probably wouldn’t have caused any more anxiety,” he said.
Snowden tweeted a “fact check” on Clapper’s self-defense on Tuesday.
Fact check: The Senator who asked the question said “Regardless of what was going through the director’s head when he testified, failing to correct the record was a deliberate decision to lie to the American people.” BTW, question was provided in advance: https://t.co/k9Sx9g4OYW https://t.co/y9E1ha1BB8
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) March 6, 2019
Greenwald seemed to find Clapper’s story on CNN quite entertaining.
That James Clapper clip above – where he hilariously tries to squirm out of having lied to Congress when falsely denying the NSA domestic surveillance program (his story has repeatedly changed on this) – is also worth watching for his admission that it stopped no terror plots.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 5, 2019
Clapper’s comments also seemed to spark a collective eyeroll on Twitter.
A) James Clapper: ‘I Didn’t Lie’ to Congress About NSA Surveillance, I ‘Simply Didn’t Understand’ the Question.
— Eric Bolling?? (@ericbolling) March 5, 2019
LOL, try and use that defense with the FBI….
— Mike Parker (@MJP1313) March 5, 2019
The man in charge of the NSA “didn’t understand the question”. He understood the situation enough to advance his political career, and certainly enough to lie to us all about it.
— GinKing (@ginzbiz) March 6, 2019
It’s the sensible thing to do. Lying to congress carries a prison sentence, buy being stupid in front congress is a regular occurrence.
— IncurableRebel (@IncurableR) March 5, 2019
It’s an absolute disgrace that Edward Snowden faces up to life in prison for blowing the whistle on this unconstitutional program while James Clapper was never even investigated for perjuring himself before Congress regarding the same program. https://t.co/NOpILyUo3K
— Gabby ?? (@LibertyGabby) March 5, 2019
CIA Dir that didn’t understand a simple question about exactly why he was hired! I’m not sure which is more alarming that you couldn’t understand a direct threat question or that he lied. Either way your answer doesn’t give me the warm and fuzzys about your criminal incompetence!
— Steven Crenshaw (@SCrenshawtxmo) March 5, 2019
Been in Govt his whole life, doesn’t understand the questions? Yeah, right…. prosecute!
— George McGuire (@GeoMcGuire) March 5, 2019
I didn’t lie, I just didn’t tell the truth
— fikri hasyim (@Fikri_2013) March 6, 2019
So he’s both incompetent and a liar ✔
— Chris Manning (@Manning4USCong) March 6, 2019
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